6 Reasons Your Team Yearns For Authenticity

If you bring all of who you are to the leadership table, some people will hate your style. In fact, it’s likely that a few “important” people will not “like” you. Authenticity is intimidating, and scares those with the most to hide. Far easier to lead like everyone else and be groomed to fit a mold.

Similarly, letting people see who you are and hear what you really mean makes you vulnerable. Rejection of your idea stings. Rejection of some company line you’ve practiced and perfected feels much less personal.

But easy leadership doesn’t change the game.

If you won’t bring every ounce of who you are and what you have to give to your leadership, your team will know. And, they’ll follow your lead.

Your team will hold back who they are and what they have most to give. The cycle continues.

Your team needs you to be you. They yearn to experience the rare game-changing results that happen in a genuine environment of candor, deep respect, and trust.

The world’s future depends on growing more leaders with the confidence to audaciously bring all their gifts and ideas to the table.

6 Reasons Your Team Yearns for Authenticity

1. They’ve been screwed before

Oh, they have stories. Trust me. I hear them. Assume somewhere along the line they’ve felt betrayed. Even if it’s not at your company or even under your watch, once upon a time a leader has lied to them. Guards are up. They need a good guy to restore their trust in leadership. They need reassurance in action, not words.They’re not going to tell you the truth until they’re perfectly sure you’ve been doing the same… over and over.

Your team also desperately wants to know that the good guys can (and do) win. There’s no better gift you can give your team than leading from who you are toward head turning results.

2. You’re wasting YOUR energy

Keeping up appearances is an energy-sucking, never-ending vacuum of misery. Trying to lead like someone else, or spin the truth, will wear you down and make you cranky. When leaders spend time working to show up differently than who they are, to win the game and keep up a facade, they waste precious energy that could be invested in creating breakthrough vision, developing people, and working on the work.

3. You’re  wasting THEIR energy

If your team senses you’re playing a game, they’ll spend a lot of time working to figure out the rules. In fact, if you’ve got surface success, they’ll be taking notes to learn to play it too. All that contagious facade building pulls hearts and mind from the important mission at hand.

4.  You’re their lifeline

Particularly in a big organization, the immediate leader makes all the difference. You can’t outsource leadership, not even to your boss, or to HR. They want to hear the story from you, and they want to know you’re not reading talk-points crafted from someone else. If they can’t trust you to be genuine where will they turn? That answer may be really dangerous.

5. They want to be like you- maybe

Some folks on your team have serious aspirations to move up in the scene. But they don’t want to lose their souls in the process. They’re watching you to see how you handle the pressure. Do you stay true to who you are, or are you being groomed to be “just like THEM.”

6. They have important news to share

They’ve got ideas and solutions, but your team wants to ensure they’ll have a receptive audience. If you’re afraid to share with them, they’ll be reluctant to share with you.

Saying It With Soul #meanit

As part of our Mean It Madness Month I invited Kathryn Cramer to share her approach to speaking with authenticity. Say it with soul.

A Guest Post from Dr. Kathy Cramer

Saying it with soul is about meaning what you say—and saying something meaningful. It’s about putting yourself and your message on the line. It is about showing your skin in the game.

This can be a tall order for leaders, even when the core of their message is something positive. But why?

It Exposes Your Vulnerability – Whenever you communicate what something means to you, you are revealing something important about yourself. You, not your words, are the message. Soul is something you already have—it is your values and beliefs, your character, your mighty cause, your unique, authentic leadership presence in the world. Communicating with soul is a matter of revealing and demonstrating what you already have.

A Sense Of False Modesty – We are socialized not to brag and to view ego as a turn-off. But authentic humility is also about having the confidence to own and express the best of who we are.

You Think That Nobody Cares – Often leaders think their teams are not concerned with what the leaders think is important; people only care about their own well-being. That statement is true. People do care most about their own well-being, but that is why they need to know that their leaders have personal skin in the game. If you are genuinely committed and personally invested in a cause, then it lowers the bar for your team to get on board. People have a built-in Geiger counter as to whether leaders are being true to what they value, and showing your skin in the game creates authenticity over time.

An Exercise

The more aware you are of when you are perceived by others as sincere and authentic, the more intentional you can be about demonstrating those qualities. The following feedback exercise from Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do helps increase your awareness of these occasions by seeking feedback from trusted members of your circle.

Identify five people who have regular contact with you. Ask each person to answer the following questions:

  1. Can you remember a time when you felt like I was speaking sincerely and authentically?
  2. What was I talking about?
  3. How could you tell I was being sincere?

The patterns from this sincerity feedback process may surprise you. For instance, one sales executive who prided himself on his self-confidence found out, to his surprise, that it was when he opened up about his struggles that people saw him as most sincere and authentic. His respondents recommended that he reveal his critical thinking process when trying to sell to a potential customer.

For this sales leader, all he needed was the feedback about letting people into his thought process. There was no new skill he needed to develop; it was simply a matter of being more open and transparent. That is precisely what saying it with soul is all about.

Start A More Meaningful Conversation #meanit

As the “Mean It” Madness continues, I’m delighted to share insights from sincere people around the world who have reached out to share their stories.

Today’s post is inspired by Cat Willliams a relationship counsellor and author of Stay Calm and Content. She shares how meaningful conversations start by telling yourself the truth.

If you have a story of where saying what you mean made all the difference, click here to share.

Start a More Meaningful Conversation

“He that undervalues himself will undervalue others, and he that undervalues others will oppress them.”
~Samuel Johnson

Many conversations break down because the issue being discussed is not the real issue at hand. Even when people are communicating “well” with “I statements” and the like, if the real issue isn’t surfaced, it can’t be addressed. Much energy is spent in such false dialogue. Truths remain unspoken and the undercurrent of resentment continues.

Cat shared that some of the hardest conversations are those in which we must apologize. It’s tough to admit to ourselves that we’ve done something wrong. It’s even more scary to face potential rejection if the apology is not accepted.

It’s far easier to convince ourselves someone else is to blame, and we start with a solid argument to ourselves. We soothe our egos, and our important apologies remain un-offered. As I heard Cat’s story, my heart tugged with a few folks in need of a call.

Leaders who are insecure are more likely to cover up their fears by limiting feedback and placing blame. What appears tough on the outside, may actually a false barricade to protect a fragile ego.

Cat shares a useful metaphor, if we think of ourselves as a car, our engine is our self-esteem. Many people don’t do the necessary maintenance and upkeep that needs to be done on that engine, and instead choose to focus on the engine’s exhaust, or the symptoms that surface in the form of emotions.

To ensure we’re dealing with the true issues, Cat encourages us to take time, and not rush to communicate. Here are several questions that can help you slow down and start a more meaningful conversation.

  1. What am I really upset about here. Is the issue I’m reacting to the real problem, or is something deeper?
  2. How is my confidence involved in this? Is there something I’m unsure or afraid of that’s making me feel insecure. In other words, am I dealing with the “engine” or the exhaust?
  3. How have my interpretations played into the meaning here?,/li>
  4. Are there other possible interpretations or explanations for what’s happening?
  5. What do I really want from this conversation? What is the best possible outcome?
  6. What is the most effective way to communicate my feelings?
  7. How can I listen so I can really hear what the other person is looking to convey? How can I encourage them to say what they really mean?

To hear my interview with Cat Williams:

 

She also shares additional insights in this video or visit her blog.

Sincerity Experts Share Advice: March Frontline Festival #meanit

This month’s Frontline Festival is an extension of Mean It Madness on Let’s Grow Leaders. You don’t need to be a blogger to share your story. Click here to share how saying what you mean has made all the difference. Thank you Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx for the great feature pic (above). Follow Joy @joy_guthrie.

Speaking with Sincerity & Kindness

Jon Mertz – This Difference, opens the Festival with, Uncomplicated Meaning. At times, we can over-complicated how to mean it. If it is wrapped in meaning, then to “mean it” should be simply natural and real. Follow Jon at @ThinDifference

Matt McWilliams – Life. Leadership. Love. Learned the Hard Way, brings us Why I Hate the Feedback Sandwich and What to do About It. Feedback is intended for one reason: to cause the desired future behavior, by either reinforcing a good one or correcting a bad one. It’s best to keep it simple and sincere. Follow Matt @MattMcWilliams2

Kate Nasser – Smart SenseAbilitiesTM, shares Leadership Sincerity: Are You Leading w/ Honesty & Civility? How can leaders say what they mean and mean what they say without insulting people or crushing morale? Here are 6 key steps from The People Skills Coach™ to engage others w/ honesty, authenticity AND civility. Leaders, be real not rude. Follow Kate @KateNasser

Jennifer Miller – The People Equation, offers THINK: 15 Ideas to Help You Talk Less and Listen More. Before you say what you mean, be sure your words aren’t mean. Jennifer offers up four questions to ask yourself before you open your mouth so that the conversation will be productive and encouraging. Follow Jennifer @JenniferVMiller

Bill Benoist Leadership Heart Coaching, brings us Active Listening One of the greatest gifts we can give another person is our undivided attention. When we focus on what the other person is saying rather than forming a response as the person is speaking, we are letting the individual know we value what he or she has to say. Follow Bill @leadershipheart

Julie Pierce – Empowered by Pierce, shares Say What You Mean to Say: A lesson in sincere leadership Excellent leaders are overflowing with integrity and sincerity. Leadership Coach Julie Pierce shares a lesson on sincere leadership. Follow Julie @julie_pierce.

Bernie NagleZunZhong,  shares Speak With The V.O.I.C.E. Of Sincerity Credibility is the currency of Leadership. Draw the account down too far and you risk losing your team…and your job. A simple tool to help your remember how to use your VOICE.Follow Bernie @altrupreneur

Jon HunterCurious Cat Management Improvement Blog, brings us Respect for People Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Any Hint of Criticism Personal attacks are not useful. Attacking bad practices and bad thinking is showing respect for people. An environment that is so emotionally immature that criticism of bad practices and ideas is seen as disrespectful is an environment that is in need of improvement. Follow Jon @curiouscat_com

Wally Bock Three Star Leadership, shares Gentle Honesty Brutal honesty is supposed to be a good thing. Gentle honesty is better. Follow Wally @WallyBock

The Dangers of Insincerity

Chery Gegelman – of Simply Understanding Blog shares her post, The greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage John was offered a position with another company. He accepted the position and relocated to take the job. In his first week in the new job John receives multiple warnings from co-workers and community members questioning the authenticity and sincerity of the people and the organization he is now employed with. What would you do? Follow Chery @GianaConsulting

Mike Henry Sr. – Founder of the Lead Change Group, shares Sincerity and Office Politics.  Trust lubricates relationships and makes organizations and teams effective. This post outlines 6 ways to shore up trust and sincerity in a team or organization. Follow Mike @mikehenrysr

Eric DinglerEricdingler.com, shares The Most Important Leadership Lesson You Can Learn A quick look at the leadership axiom; More Is Caught Than is Taught and how it plays out in personal, family and workplace leadership. Follow Eric @familylifeuni

Scott MambryElumn8, shares Stop Playing Leadership Hide and Seek The unfortunate thing about hide and seek in organizations is that leaders are often the main perpetrators. Follow Scott @scott_elumn8

New to the Festival, Herwig W Dierckx, Great Business Life Stories,  shares Medieval consultant jargon. A funny story on the over-use of business buzzwords and corporate jargon; in the hope to convince the reader to move to more authentic and clear leadership communication. Follow Herwig @HWDierckx.

Being Sincere With Yourself

 Alli Polin Break the Frame, offers Find the Courage to Be Yourself Too many people seem to have a game face and think that if everyone is playing the game, they have no other choice. Why not say what you mean and show the world who you are? Follow Alli @AlliPolin

Tom EakinBoomLife- Values Driven Success, shares Hey Leaders! What Do You Want? Want to lead an organization where people do great things? First, you need to understand what great things you’re willing to do and, more importantly, why. Follow Tom @goboomlife

Living an Integrated and Ethical Life

Jesse Lyn Stoner – of Jesse Lyn Stoner Blog, shares Your Greatest Source of Influence, Your character is your greatest source of influence, no matter what your role or position. Follow Jesse @JesseLynStoner

Barbara KimmelTrust Across America, shares, Ten Trust Busters Are your actions ethical? What impact are they having on others? Is unethical behavior just “business as usual?” Follow Barbara @BarbaraKimmel

Skip Prichard Leadership Insights, shares Do What You Say You’re Going to Do  What’s one trait that all successful people have in common? They do what they say they will do. Whether a small thing or a big one, consistently doing what you say you will do is the foundation of success. Follow Skip @SkipPrichard

New to the festival, Bob Whipple, The Trust Ambassador brings us , 7 Ways to Improve Your Integrity Before we can learn to trust others, we must learn to trust ourselves. Sounds simple, but many people exhibit low integrity in their own life. Follow Bob, @Rwhipple

Linda Fisher Thornton – Leading in Context, shares Developing Globally Responsible Leaders Developing leaders who are sincerely committed to and capable of fulfilling their responsibilities as global citizens. Follow Linda @LeadinginContxt


Call For Submissions: April Frontline Festival.  April’s Theme is Employee Engagement. New participants welcome. Click here for more information.

When Passive Aggressive Meets The Truth #meanit

He was the poster-child for passive aggressive (at least that’s my side of the story). In an effort to keep the peace, I’d tried to shake it off. I’d kept my mouth shut, and encouraged my team to take the “high road.”.But the high road was getting bumpier with time.

I realized I needed to take a bit of my own advice; but frankly, I was worried about the political ramifications.

And then the best kind of truth-telling realization. What kind of role model am I if I advocate for ditching the diaper genie, only when it feels safe? I had to address the scene.

I had to address the scene.

I confronted Mr. Passive Aggressive. I shared my concern about the tenor of his emails, the endless digging for problems, the data sent over my head without a chance to review… Calmly, carefully, but truthfully. And held my breath. My truth.

We connected and he responded. Of course, he didn’t MEAN to come across that way, after all, he’s just trying to help. We’re all in this together. His truth.

There was my window: “I would LOVE your help…THIS is what would be most helpful”. We spent over an hour discussing our common concerns and joint goals. We got specific on what matters most and how we could help one another. Our truth.

Then he shared with surprising candor, “But I have to say. I can’t change the way I communicate. My emails are not intended to be aggressive, I just get really fired up. This is how I communicate with everyone.” His truth.

Somehow that statement also felt like progress.

I responded, “Thank you for letting me know so I’ll be prepared. Here’s what I can assure you, I will never send you an email with that tone.” My truth.

You guessed it. The tone has improved. All the other support we discussed is playing out. The business is better off. We’re both in a better place.

When we respond by being passive, we quietly encourage continued aggression.

6 Ways to Deal with Passive Aggressive Behavior at Work

Ditch the Diaper Genie– I’ll never know if he was really “just trying to help” or if there was an ulterior motive. I’ve decided that just doesn’t matter. When your gut tells you somethings wrong, something’s wrong, even if it’s just a miscommunication. Truth speaking encourages a truthful response, even if it’s not something we want to hear.  Better to get it all out in the open.

Listen to Understand- Somethings going on underneath that wacky behavior. Do your best to understand the person and their scene. Get to know them as a fellow human being. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re doing the best they can.

Take the High Road – Taking the high road has nothing to do with rolling over or shutting down. It’s about not emulating the passive aggressive behavior. Resist the urge the fight fire with fire, or take the offensive. Stay true to your leadership values and role model what must be done.

Stay Calm – Responding in an emotional way will only bring on the passive response, leaving you looking like (and feeling like) the fool. Nothing’s more intimidating to someone trying to manipulate you then a calm, clear-headed, overview of the situation.

Be Specific – Avoid speaking in general terms. Track specific behaviors that feel wrong to have as examples as needed. It’s hard to argue with the facts

 Ask For What You Need – It’s hard for someone to work against you after they’ve agreed to help you.  Resist the urge for lofty platitudes like “I really need your help.” Or, “I need your commitment to work as a team.” Instead said, I could really use your help with addressing X issue at the meeting on Tuesday.

Strong leaders stand up to passive aggressive behavior, model healthy communication–for you and for your team.

3 Secrets To Sharing Secrets

Don’t keep secrets. Keeping secrets creates short-term advantages and long-term costs. You gain the edge, but lose the relationship. The world could use less secrets and more sharing. I wish you would share more.

Annoying Secret #1: Bad News

I was happy when he brought me bad news. His eyes matched his words,”I’m really worried.” I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. I was worried too, but this guy worries with data. He had patterns, insights, and possible scenarios. He could have waited, or tried a thing or two first. He wants to look good. But he knows I want to know what he knows. The sooner I know the real deal, the faster we can solve it.

You want your boss to know you’ve got it covered. But your boss wants to help. Share your concern out of respect not need. Bring potential solutions. Share your internal debate. Keep the lead, but give others a chance to collaborate on solutions.

Annoying Secret #2: Best Practices

It was the day before the big review with the senior team. We each had a turn to share our talk tracks. The leader ahead in an important key metric mentioned 3 or 4 best practices for the first time. We’d ALL been struggling toward this same goal, and he had answers.

Keeping best practices secret destroys trust. Secret keepers lose respect. No one wants to promote the secret keeper. Share your knowledge. Offer help. Open your heart and hands to the greater good.

Annoying Secret #3: How You Really Feel

“We’ve all been talking about it; you’re acting different.” His words were a kick in my gut. I knew it was true. The pressure was mounting and I was trying to protect the team. Instead of serving as shield, my stress emerged as unexplained intensity. We talked. We explored feelings and reasons on both sides. It helped. We carved a path forward.

Keeping your feelings secret dehumanizes the relationship. Keeping how you really feel a secret to protect your team may even make you feel like a martyr. Don’t whine, but share feelings with intention. Know the reason for your sharing. Start slowly. Check in. Initiate a balanced discussion (what feels good? what feels bad?) Be open to what you hear on the other end.

Shackled Truth: Words Left Unsaid

Don’t shackle your truth. When you leave words unsaid. Your team loses, your world stays unchanged, and you know it could be better.

I worked this week with a mix of fantastic leaders across a spectrum of leadership roles and industries in a keynote I gave at the International Customer Service Association. 

Early in the game, I asked each person to write down a “strong leadership strength which they frequently hide.” I was surprised and saddened by the #1 answer.

Telling the Truth

Folks yearn to tell the truth, share their knowledge, and express their opinions but are slowed by fear of:

  • Authority
  • Backlash
  • Upset employees
  • Not being accepted
  • Failure
  • Consequences
  • Bosses
  • Losing my position

“What if I’m wrong?” or “my boss disagrees” “I don’t fit in.” “there are other strong voices in the room.” The fear of these vital leaders is also your fear, my fear, our fear.

Unschackled Truth

“Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain’t so.”
~ Mark Twain

We work so hard to unshackle truth. Scar tissue, dynamics, fear of losing the familiar, keep us cautious. Your team may be holding back more than you think. A few thoughts on unshackling:

  • Ask questions for which you have no idea of the answer
  • Tell the truth (up, down, and sideways)
  • Listen more than is practical
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Take deliberate actions on what you hear
  • Recognize the truth sayers

*Photo by Larry Kohlenstein

The Big Problem with Little White Lies

When’s the last time you sat in a meeting and heard a “little white lie”?

Sure, what they presented was “technically” the truth. The statistics they presented were real, but no one walked away with the full story. Perhaps you found yourself wondering “do they really think I’m that stupid?”

“White lies introduce others of a darker complexion.”
~William Paley

We all have different triggers and thresholds. I’ve come to learn that my white lie-detector is set to quick frustration. I go from skeptical to spitting teeth in a matter of seconds.

I suspect I’m not alone.

Little white lies come in many forms

  • spin
  • strategic ambiguity
  • manipulated data
  • left out facts
  • embellished stories
  • hedging
  • broken promises
  • covering our butts
  • ?

Little white lies can…

  • be easy
  • get you out of jam
  • buy you time
  • shift blame
  • destroy your relationships
  • derail your career

If you tell a little lie, we question…

  • where did these numbers come from?
  • did you tell me the truth last time?
  • what else do i need to dig into?
  • what aren’t you telling me?
  • are you for real?
  • do you have my back?
  • should I work with you again?
  • can I trust you?
  • ?

Great Leaders Don’t BS

It takes courage to…

  • Admit when we’ve screwed up
  • Share the whole truth
  • Lift up problems
  • Tell the whole story
  • ?

Ask Yourself These Truths…

  • When you present do “they” know you are sharing the whole view?
  • Would they work with you again?

Please comment: Is there a place for “little white lies” in business?
Does it always pay to tell the truth?

To Tell The Truth: The Problem with “Positioning”

Framing.

Positioning.

WIFM (them).

Spin.

If you are a leader, you have sat in one of these meetings. How do we explain this to them... in a way they can hear, understand, and feel good about?

How you position a change matters. A lot.

And yet,

If you find yourself in meeting after meeting, working to wordsmith the change to better “position” what is happening, I encourage you to ask one question.

“What if we told them the truth?”

  • … overtime is too high, we must increase productivity
  • … the stock price is stagnant, we will all benefit from better financials
  • …we need to ensure everyone is contributing
  • … this new automation will be more efficient
  • ???

Grown-ups want the truth. Not spin. The truth is most people will respect you far more for telling them the truth than any elegant positioning you can concoct.

When people feel respected, they will respond.

When people feel respected they will join.

 When people feel respected they will try.

On the other hand.

Unfiltered truth shared in an uncaring way creates unproductive havoc.

What If You Start With the Truth?

And then consider…

  • What are the best and worst parts of this change?
  • Who will this impact in what ways?
  • What questions will be most relevant to whom?
  • What additional information should I have available?
  • What other questions will they ask?
  • ???

I have never regretted erring on the side of the truth even when it was scary. Even if the awkward truth creates short-term anxiety, communicated well, the credibility you establish is worth the risk.
 

To Tell The Truth: The Problem with "Positioning"

Framing.

Positioning.

WIFM (them).

Spin.

If you are a leader, you have sat in one of these meetings. How do we explain this to them... in a way they can hear, understand, and feel good about?

How you position a change matters. A lot.

And yet,

If you find yourself in meeting after meeting, working to wordsmith the change to better “position” what is happening, I encourage you to ask one question.

“What if we told them the truth?”

  • … overtime is too high, we must increase productivity
  • … the stock price is stagnant, we will all benefit from better financials
  • …we need to ensure everyone is contributing
  • … this new automation will be more efficient
  • ???

Grown-ups want the truth. Not spin. The truth is most people will respect you far more for telling them the truth than any elegant positioning you can concoct.

When people feel respected, they will respond.

When people feel respected they will join.

 When people feel respected they will try.

On the other hand.

Unfiltered truth shared in an uncaring way creates unproductive havoc.

What If You Start With the Truth?

And then consider…

  • What are the best and worst parts of this change?
  • Who will this impact in what ways?
  • What questions will be most relevant to whom?
  • What additional information should I have available?
  • What other questions will they ask?
  • ???

I have never regretted erring on the side of the truth even when it was scary. Even if the awkward truth creates short-term anxiety, communicated well, the credibility you establish is worth the risk.
 

How To Tell Your Boss The Truth

I learned this one the hard way.

My first year out of grad school, I was invited to a symposium on self-directed work teams. In academia, I was well versed. I had little practical experience. The morning began with a senior executive sponsor setting the vision. After he spoke, I immediately raised my hand and challenged one of his major assumptions. I shared my “truth.” There was a palpable gasp from the crowd. He was embarrassed, as was I.

It doesn’t matter if my “truth” was true. I am not sure if I ever recovered with that executive.

I believe in telling the truth. I need to hear it. My boss needs to hear it. You boss needs to hear it.

Frame your truth in a way that can be heard.

Truth Packaged Well

Your boss is likely working on her leadership as much or more than you are working on yours. No matter how confident someone appears on the outside, they are dealing with insecurities, complex personal and family dynamics, and personal triggers just like the rest of us.

When done well, your boss will hear the feedback, and be grateful that you cared enough to take the time.

A few tips:

  • Stay centered in your own intentions is this about you or about them, or the chemistry between?
  • Ask– are they open to some feedback?
  • Schedule some time, or look for an opportunity free from distractions
  • Provide the feedback in private
  • Come from a spirit of caring and helping
  • Ask questions, try to understand her point of view
  • Be prepared with specific examples
  • Own the feedback, this is from you, you are not representing the rest of the group
  • What would you add ?

Diaper Genie Feedback

Today’s post is a direct response to a subscriber’s question:

I took my first real leadership position when my oldest son was still in diapers. Every time I used our diaper genie, I thought, this is just how feedback and bad news works. Each level takes the poop and seals it in a bag before it gets sent to the next level up. Then, that level sanitizes it some more with another layer of protection. By the time it gets to the top, it smells pretty benign.

“I would love to hear your thoughts on eliciting candid feedback from your team and stakeholders? How do you get your team to take the risk of saying what needs to be said to those in power? How do you go about it? What suggestions do you have to do this effectively?”

Diaper genies work great for babies, but are a dangerous leadership tool.

So how do you get your employees to tell you the truth?

How do you ask for feedback in a way that feels safe?

5 Ways To Get More Feedback

Create an Environment of Trust

When I put this question out on my Let’s Grow Leaders Facebook page for insights, Eric Dingler shared:

You have to start with the end in mind. I think the best way is to have a culture of trust to start with. If you have a reputation of being a jerk and closed off to input, no trick will work. Once you have a culture of trust. You can simply ask for feedback. If you don’t feel like you are getting feedback, you’ve probably failed to establish a safe environment.

For more on creating a trusting environment see, A Matter of Trust: Why I Trust You, Why I Don’t.

Model it

I often see managers say to their employees, “I am wide open to feedback,” but then discourage their employees from being open with others above them. Or worse, they model their fear of repercussions. Employees will always listen to what you do more than what you say. If you are open in giving honest feedback to your boss, your team will be more likely to give you truthful feedback as well.

Ask

There are many ways to ask for feedback on both a formal and informal basis. I use one-on-ones to do this on a regular basis, so the feedback is casual and frequent. I also ask for feedback more formally during mid-year and end-of-year reviews. Employee surveys can also be good. Read more about feedback in Feedback: Getting Great Insights From People Who Matter.

Respond Elegantly

Start with “thank you.” Always. Watch how you react, not just with your words, but with your face, eyes, and body language. Listen attentively and react calmly, even if you disagree with the feedback. Work to understand the perceptions, even if you know there is more to the story.

Close the Loop

When given the gift of formal and informal feedback, be sure to close the loop. Recap what you heard. If you are going to take action, share that. Circle back and ask for feedback on your progress. Closure helps to build the trust, and encourages future feedback.